Transgender Voice Therapy: How an SLP Can Help

TransGender-SymbolWith all the buzz surrounding Caitlyn Jenner’s transgender transition bringing public awareness to this process, there continues to be less awareness of speech therapy and how it can support the overall transition process.

What can an SLP do for transgender clients?

A Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) can help to not only increase pitch, but also change rate of speech, intonation and inflection patterns, volume, tone and placement of voice, and feminize gestures and body language:  an overall package that can aid transgender clients and help them feel more comfortable with their new selves.

How does the process of transgender voice therapy work?

An SLP will assess the client to get a better understanding of the goals they wish to achieve by coming to voice therapy.  Have they started hormone replacement therapy or gender re-assignment surgeries? How much do they want to change their voice (modify it and make it more feminine or completely feminize it)?  Hormone replacement and gender reassignment surgeries can all impact progress of voice therapy.  Voice therapy with transgender individuals should definitely be conducted with a holistic viewpoint and approach.  Client perception, outcomes, and long term goals are very important to the overall outcome of therapy.

What are the outcomes of transgender voice therapy?

The outcomes are completely client directed.  Increasing client awareness of their voice, anatomy, how it can change, and how to safely produce their new voice is a main goal of therapy.  Consistent attendance to therapy sessions is a necessity, especially in the beginning stages when establishing pitch, tone, and intonation patterns.  The aim is to produce voice in a way that does not strain or put stress on the vocal mechanism.  The degree of change and feminization varies based on vocal anatomy, client preference, and ability to use the “new voice” more than the “old voice.”

Speech/voice therapy is a great tool to add to the transgender process and an important step in the whole transition process.

LindaSaarenvirta-220Linda Saarenvirta has been practicing for 11 years as a registered Speech-Language Pathologist at S. L. Hunter SpeechWorks.  For the past 5 years, Linda has focussed in the area of vocal rehabilitation including the use of videostroboscopy as well as the Visi-Pitch program.  She enjoys working with all clientele and believes strongly in the client centered approach that S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks provides.

Prepare Your Child for Back to School by Establishing School Routines


This time of year, parents are starting to think about getting their kids ready for school.  Preparing children for back to school success involves thinking about setting routines before the beginning of school.

Rise and Shine – Starting the Morning  Routine

Spend time over the next few weeks with the family making a morning routine chart so that that everyone understands the routine and expectations to ensure things go smoothly.


  1. Get dressed (picture of clothes)
  2. Eat breakfast (picture of food)
  3. Brush teeth (picture of toothbrush or bathroom)
  4. Get ready to leave (picture of shoes, bus, car, backpack and/or lunch)

With a younger child, you can use pictures along with the words. For an older child, have them write out the order in which they would like to complete their morning. Place the list around the house or in a central location. Getting the children involved in this routine will help provide them with some responsibility and commitment to follow through with the routine within that first crazy week of school.

After School Routines

Every family will have a different after school routine. It is best to determine what works for your family.  Activities will change on the nights where extra-curricular activities are involved, but remember to plan the routine for those days as well. One idea is to plan ahead and create a homework center.

Using a designated area with limited distractions provides the child with a familiar and predictable area to complete their homework. Discuss with the child what materials they will require to set the area for homework success.

Add talking with your children about their day to the after school routine. Dinnertime, driving to the next event, or getting ready for bed are great times to ask specific questions about the child’s day.  Avoid asking general questions like, “How was your day?” Instead, ask questions with purpose, such as:

  • “What was your funniest part of the day?”
  • “What was your favourite part of the day?”
  • “Can you teach me something you learned today?”

These questions should give a more specific answer rather than typical short answers, such as “fine.” or “I don’t know.”

Evening Routines

Where have all the books gone? Time to gear up your child’s literacy and thinking skills. Get back into reading books before bed. Where can reading fit into your nighttime routine? This may require turning off the electronics and going to bed a little early in order to have time to read before the exhaustion sets in. Talk about the pictures, events and engage the child to predict what will come next in the story.

Before going to bed, have a chat with your child about the events for the next morning and go over the routine one more time. No matter the age, getting into the habit of talking about the next day helps mentally prepare them and also provides parents with an opportunity to introduce new vocabulary.

School Activity Preparation

Once the school schedule is organized, it’s time to get your child’s thinking skills jump started! Here’s an idea to impress your child’s teacher on the first of school or the Speech-Language Pathologist the first day back to therapy: prepare children for the popular question, “What did you do all summer?” Open-ended questions are more difficult to answer. There may be too many details to discuss. In order to avoid answers such as, “I don’t know”, or “I don’t remember”, completing the activities below will give children the opportunity to response in detail since it will be rehearsed and familiar.

  • For younger children, develop a photo album of the pictures from different events throughout the summer. Make a photo album and have the children discuss what they see in each picture. Are they able to recall what came before or after the picture?
  • Recalling the events which took place all summer. It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it!  Once the child has selected a special vacation they can write or discuss all of the events of the vacation. Using the five W’s (e.g. ‘Who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’ and ‘how’) guarantees a very descriptive story.

If you would like more tips and activities to prepare children for school success leave me a message in the comment section and I will certainly provide more ideas.

TeriLynam-220Teri Lynam is a registered Speech-Language Pathologist with ten years of experience working in the field of communication disorders. She has a special interest in early language, literacy development, acquired brain injury, motor speech and resonance disorders. Teri is committed to providing individualized family-centered therapy in a fun and supportive environment.


SpeechWorks Takes Part in the Burlington Children’s Festival

shutterstock_78308221The Burlington Children’s Festival is celebrating its 24th year with a sports themed event. Enjoy free sports-themed, fun activities, including live entertainment, crafts, themed shows, a kid’s marketplace as well as food vendors if you end up staying for a while.

The Info!

When and Where

The Festival is taking place on Sunday August 16, 2015 from 10am-5pm at Spencer Smith Park 1400 Lakeshore Road in Burlington.


Admission and events are all free.


Our staff will be present at the festival from 10-5 on August 16th. Feel free to come and visit!

Highly trained and skilled Speech Language Pathologists and Communicative Disorders Assistants will be on sight to answer any questions you may have about your child’s speech, language and literacy needs.

There will be pamphlets available with communication expectations for the parents to take home. There will also be information about voice for those with family members with voice disorders. We will have information about all of the services we offer (not just for the kids).

There will be games set up for the children as well, they can walk away with prizes: stickers, candies, and temporary tattoos can be won. You can also walk away with a FREE beach ball!

Just look for the white tent with the S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks sign attached.  We will all be wearing purple shirts!

We hope to see everyone at the Burlington Children’s Festival.  August 16th at Spencer Smith Park.

GwenBlackburn-220Gwen is a Communicative Disorders Assistant with more than 17 years of experience working with a diverse client base.  Her experiences have provided her with the wonderful opportunity to be associated with adults suffering from brain injuries, those that have experienced a stroke, children with articulation and language difficulties and children who have a limited word repertoire.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Speech Therapy


Earlier this year (January 2015), Science Alert informed readers about a clinical study in Colorado investigated a stem-cell treatment that prevented many patients with relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS) from relapsing. In addition, 91% showed no signs of their MS progressing.

This is a hugely important study.

MS impacts each sufferer differently, but according to the National MS Society located in New York, between 23% and 57% of MS suffers experience speech difficulties.

Speech therapy can be an integral part of managing ones’ MS.

In the RRMS mentioned in the Colorado study, MS sufferers may experience periods of relatively normal speech, along with periods of unclear (dysarthric) speech. Because MS is a degenerative condition, speech exercises used with other types of disorders may not be effective. As a result, compensations for the difficulties are more useful.

How can a Speech-Language Pathologist Help with MS?

Speech-Language Pathologists are trained to help people with MS learn which strategies are most helpful based on the person’s physical and mental characteristics. These strategies can be practised during times of remission so that the client has practised the strategy frequently and is ready to use it effectively when an episode or flare-up occurs.

As with any degenerative illness affecting speech, supportive counselling regarding current and future communication changes is very important. Many people are not aware that Speech-Language Pathologists are the optimal professional to provide the counselling pertaining to speech changes. Adjustment issues related to the disability are best addressed through Psychology or Social Work service.

Reach out for help

Please call us if you or your loved-one suffers from unclear speech from any form of MS. We are here to help.

BobiTychynskiShimoda-220Bobi Tychynski Shimoda is a Speech-Language Pathologist with more than a decade of experience working with neurological communication and swallowing disorders. She has worked in a variety of settings including inpatient rehab, acute care, community, and private practise. She is highly skilled in assessment, and innovative treatment approaches.